Here’s What Everyone Wore At The First Online Ceramics Galleries Show
Before Alix Ross and Elijah Funk started Online Ceramics, they were two kids trying to become beautiful artists. This is where the name Online Ceramics comes from: They considered creating a website where they could sell their ceramic sculptures, and they jumped on the domain name. Next, Funk got the opportunity to design a T-shirt for a friend’s brand. The rest was an acid-drenched story: their Grateful Dead-influenced spinoff designs caught fire with a new generation of dead heads (including John Mayer, Emily Ratajkowski, and Virgil Abloh), and soon they collaborated with their preferred group. But their artistic aspirations have never wavered. “It’s not like our art practice is ever really dead,” says Ross. “It’s just kind of a transition to that something else.”
And now it’s back. On Saturday, their first gallery show, “The Galaxy Song,” opened to David Kordansky in LA. Showcasing nine graphic paintings and a sculpture, the work “is like ceramic line at full throttle,” Funk explains. How full? The sculpture takes a trippy motif that could have crawled on the back of an OC hoodie – a skeletal flute-playing jester straddling the back of a turtle – and makes it a six-foot-tall bronze monument. The paintings, which Funk and Ross created using an enormous screen printing device, go even further into their symbolically rich graphic realm. “We contemplate every shirt we make, but the contemplation associated with it was much more meditative,” Funk explains. “Like, I really feel like I’ve been living in these things for days.”
When screen printing T-shirts, guys are limited to a handful of screen printing patterns and colors; in their paintings, they could use up to 40 screens and indulge in more wacky setups that fused their spooky American aesthetic with their interest in things like organic farming. “It was almost like deconstructing the small business goal that we have with clothing,” Funk explains. To put it another way: “The paintings were ultimately a space where we could do a painting, like a skeleton milking a cow, which we might never put on a shirt,” says Ross. “Not yet,” Funk adds. Anyway, he says, “It’s cooler as a painting.”
The show itself, which features painter Matthew Brannon and his Grateful Dead referring to impressions, naturally has its roots with the group. Kordansky and the guys at Online Ceramics first traded numbers in 2016 outside of a Dead & Company show in Irvine, Calif., Where Ross and Funk were selling their first Dead bootlegs; a year later, Kordansky had the idea to put on a real show. (Their gallery owner, Ross says, “is almost more of a dead end than us.”)
In order to complete the work of the series, Ross and Funk had to suspend their usually frenzied merchandise production for about three months. But the free time after years of uninterrupted collaborations and drops, they say, was creatively energizing. “This is definitely the most I have learned from Online Ceramics in years,” says Funk. “It kind of rewired my hard drive. While Ross and Funk are already thinking about what their next gallery exhibit might look like, fans of their t-shirts and hoodies don’t have to worry about losing their guys at the White Cube complex. About an hour after the acrylic had dried on their final paint, Funk was back to designing t-shirts.
Check out the scene at the opening of “The Galaxy Song” below.
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